JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS -- (Senate - April 16, 2008)
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, No. 1, I wish to acknowledge the progress that was made yesterday between Senator McConnell and Senator Reid regarding an impasse over circuit court nominations.
The average, I believe, for the last 2 years of a Presidential term when the opposing party had control of the Senate, was 15 circuit court nominations being confirmed by the Senate. At this point, we are at seven.
As I understand, an agreement reached yesterday between Senator Reid and Senator McConnell will allow three circuit court judges to be moved forward by the May 23 recess. I appreciate that progress.
I live in the State of South Carolina, which is in the Fourth Judicial Circuit. We have a judicial emergency on hand there. A third of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is vacant. We have two nominees, one from South Carolina and one from North Carolina, who have been awaiting hearings and confirmation for well over 200 days now.
I urge my colleagues to allow these fine candidates for the judiciary to move forward and the Senate get on about its business when it comes to judges. What I worry the most about is, over the last 4 or 5 years, we have had an experience with judges pretty much unknown to the Senate. There are a lot of anecdotal stories, a lot of cases in the past where people slow walked. I can only speak to my time here. I was involved in the Gang of 14 to make sure the Senate did not do something that would haunt the body for years to come. The Gang of 14 was a bipartisan effort to make sure filibustering judges would be done only in extraordinary circumstances, simply because if we engage in this practice of trying to hold up Presidential nominations based on philosophy and not qualifications, if all of us become President, so to speak, saying, I am not going to allow a vote on a judge I wouldn't have picked, it becomes chaos.
I urge Senators CLINTON and OBAMA, who have been, quite frankly, part of the problem, to look at the model they are setting, because if they do secure the White House, they do not want this to come back to haunt them.
I want an independent judiciary. I wish to make sure it is well paid and insulated as much as possible from an unfair process. The confirmation process is getting out of hand, overly political, too many political interest groups on the left or right have an inordinate amount of say in who gets on the bench. The role of the Senate is to pass judgment, an up-or-down vote, on qualified nominees sent over by the President.
I found in the Senate if you get someone who is an outlier, there is usually bipartisan support to say no to that nominee. President Bush sent over a couple nominees I opposed. Generally speaking, I expect my time in the Senate to defer as much as possible to a Presidential nominee who I think is qualified and not base my vote or denying a nominee a vote based on the fact I would not have chosen that person. I certainly would not have chosen Justice Ginsburg, if I was President, but she is eminently qualified and received well over 90 votes, I believe.
I hope in the future we will allow judges to come to the floor, through the committee, in a timely process. The Fourth Judicial Circuit is in dire need of Judge Conrad and Mr. Steve Matthews from South Carolina having hearings and a vote. If a Senator does not like these nominees, they can vote against them. What happened there is creating a problem in the area of the country in which I live and, quite frankly, it is unfair.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to break this logjam. Senator Durbin and Senator Kennedy were kind enough to meet with Steve Matthews, the nominee from South Carolina, and I appreciate them doing so.
Let's not get into a pattern that will come back to haunt us as a body and do a lot of damage to the confirmation process and over time erode the independence of the judiciary.
I appreciate the progress that was achieved yesterday, but there is a lot more to do, particularly when it comes to the Fourth Circuit.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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